USS CITY OF SOUTH HAVEN 1918-1919 — Originally the civilian steamship City of South Haven (1903)

USS CITY OF SOUTH HAVEN, a 1719 gross ton coastal troop transport, was built at Toledo, Ohio, in 1903 as the passenger steamship of the same name. She operated commercially on the Great Lakes, primarily on southern Lake Michigan, for the next fifteen years. In April 1918 the ship was purchased by the Navy and sent to Chicago, Illinois, for conversion work.

Commissioned in November 1918, two days before the Armistice ended the First World War fighting, CITY OF SOUTH HAVEN left the lakes later in the month and went to Boston, Massachusetts, to prepare for service in European waters. However, this requirement soon evaporated and she remained in the U.S.

Sold in December 1919, her new owners renamed her CITY OF MIAMI and operated her between Florida and Cuba. The steamer returned to the Great Lakes in 1923. Under the name E.G. CROSBY, she was employed on Lake Michigan until laid up in 1931. While idle at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, she suffered massive fire damage in December 1935 and was subsequently scrapped.

USS CITY OF SOUTH HAVEN (1918) in Dry Dock

SS CITY OF SOUTH HAVEN (1903) with passengers underway on Lake Michigan

Great Lakes Steamships

Steamships sailing in the Great Lakes date to 1816, when the Canadian vessel Frontenac, entered service. This was followed by the American Walk-in-the-Water in 1818. For most of the 19th century, sailing ships continued to haul most of the raw material cargo on our lakes – the steamships hauled packaged goods and passengers.

By 1927 the number of vessels had grown to 765 and about thirty passenger lines operated on the upper Great Lakes. Passenger service pretty much faded in late 1960s with the completion of the Interstate Highway system and the Mackinac Bridge and cheaper air travel. Bulk cargo ( ore, coal, limestone, and wheat) continues to be hauled to this date in large ships up to 600 feet long with a carrying capacity of 10,000+ tons. Packaged goods rely on rail and trucking services.

A bit more history…

USS MICHIGAN 1843 – present day

The USS MICHIGAN, later renamed the USS WOLVERINE, was the first iron warship in the U.S. Navy and probably the first iron or steel warship of her size in the world. She was originally designed as a “three-mast, topsail schooner” with auxiliary steam power.

The MICHIGAN was on duty on the Great Lakes during the Civil War but never engaged in battle. In 1905 a new USS MICHIGAN (BB27) was to be commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The original MICHIGAN was renamed the WOLVERINE, after the MICHIGAN state animal. About 1910 she was turned over to the Naval Reserve as a Training Ship and remained active in this capacity until 1922 when one of her engines broke down.

The second USS MICHIGAN (BB27), a South Carolina Class Battle Ship, was commissioned 4 January 1910. Assigned to the Atlantic Fleet, she operated in the North Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and along the Atlantic Coast. During World War I, the warship escorted convoys, trained recruits, and engaged in fleet maneuvers. The MICHIGAN was decommissioned in February 1922.

Today, the USS MICHIGAN is one of the U.S. Navy’s few Guided Missile Submarines in fleet.

Photographs courtesy of the U.S. Navy Historical Center